Keep pets cool, hydrated during summer heat: Warning from animal groups

People enjoying the summer weather in Oosterpark in Amsterdam, 23 June 2019
People enjoying the summer weather in Oosterpark in Amsterdam, 23 June 2019Photo: NL Times

While enjoying the hot summer weather in the Netherlands this week, remember to also make sure your pets are cool and hydrated. By now everyone should know not to leave their pets in hot cars, but also take note that dogs can burn their feet on hot asphalt and cats can fall out of high windows while looking for a cool breeze, Dierenambulance Amsterdam warns on Facebook.

On a day like Monday, where temperatures reached 32 degrees, the temperature inside the cabin of a parked car can reach 43 degrees in just ten minutes, according to information provided to NL Times by Dierenbescherming. The group, which provides animal rescue services, inspections, and volunteers, notes that it can even hit 51 degrees inside a car sitting still for just 30 minutes. Cracking the windows or parking in the shade will not help matters much, the group said, and police will often smash open the windows of a car to rescue a dog. They can then fine the responsible party hundreds of euros for neglecting the animal.

Rule number one is and will always be to never leave your pet in a car. "Not even in shade, not even with the window cracked open, and not even for a short while!" the Dierenambulance Amsterdam team said. On top of that, make sure your pets have enough fresh water to drink and shade to cool down in.

Don't walk your dog during the heat of the day. Dogs sweat by panting and through the soles of their feet. They don't cool down if the floor is hot and the air warm and can therefore overheat. There is also a risk of your dog burning his or her foot soles on hot asphalt. If the ambient temperature is 25 degrees Celsius, the asphalt is already at 51.6 degrees Celsius. At 30.5 degrees outside, the asphalt is 61.7 degrees hot. Dogs with thin coats may also be at risk of sunburn. Rather walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening.

An overheated dog could vomit after panting and drooling excessively. Without cool air and water the dog can slip into a coma and die.

With other animals, you can check to see if their mucous membranes are red and irritated, if the pet feels hot, and if it is listless and not eating. According to Dierenbescherming those are all symptoms of an overheated animal.

Cats are generally good at finding a cool place to rest if they're too hot. Make sure your cat has shade available or can go inside the house during the day. Be careful when leaving windows or balcony doors open, because cats can fall out of them or get stuck. Cats will also pant quickly and can have a body temperature exceeding 39 degrees when they are in trouble.

Rabbits may already struggle with the heat from 24 degrees Celsius, according to Rheden Nieuws. Make sure your rabbit cage is not in the sun and that they have enough water to drink. At high temperatures you can freeze a plastic bottle filled to two thirds with water, and put it in the cage with your rabbits, wrapped in an old towel, according to Dierenbescherming. This will give them something to rest against when trying to cool down. Aside from red mucous membranes, a cat's inner eyelids will be brightly red and its ears will feel warm when it is too hot.

Guinea pigs, hamsters, and rats all will lie idle without eating when they are too hot. Rapid breathing is also a symptom of overheating with them. Aside from the iced bottle trick for rabbits, they should be given fresh drinking water frequently. Long-haired guinea pigs can also get a haircut for some relief.

Birds will also spread their wings and breathe with their beaks open when they are feeling hot. They might also remain listless for long periods of time. Their hanging cages should be lowered as it is cooler towards the ground, and they should be kept in a still, shady area with plenty of fresh water at hand..

High temperatures can result in heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heart beat, difficulty breathing, lethargy, lack of coordination, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizures, and unconsciousness, according to the Humane Society. Like with people, pets who are elderly, very young, overweight, or have other diseases are more vulnerable to high temperatures. The heat may also affect animals with short muzzles more. 

If you are concerned that your pet is suffering from heatstroke, contact your vet at once. 


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